The teenage football player accused of killing his cheerleader girlfriend has been found guilty in a Tennessee court this week.
Former Division III college football player William Riley Gaul was found guilty Tuesday of first-degree murder after he fatally shot his then-16-year-old girlfriend, Emma Walker, in November 2016 as she lay in bed in her Knoxville home.
Gaul, 19, immediately was given a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for 51 years, after the verdict came through.
Audible gasps were heard through the courtroom as the jury foreman announced the verdict.
"Today is about justice for Emma Walker and her family," Knox County District Attorney Charme Allen said.
Walker was a cheerleader and an honor student who wanted to be a neonatal nurse.
Cops discovered the killer had actually fired from outside the home and through the wall of her bedroom.
Her slaying stunned the community, as well as her family and friends.
"They're crushed with the loss of a spirit that was like sunshine to them," Allen said during the trial as he stood in front of a photo of Walker. "She was strong-willed. She was sassy. She was sarcastic sometimes. But she was their light."
Gaul dated Walker for two years before they split up. Days later, she was dead.
After her death and before his arrest, Gaul tweeted: "Living everyday through Emma Walker. I love you beautiful and I know you're in a better place now."
Another tweet read: "My beautiful Emma, rest easy now sweetheart."
Cops, however, were suspicious and persuaded one of his friends to secretly record him talking about Walker’s death.
“They don't know anything because if they did I’d be in jail right now," Gaul said in the recording.
He also spoke about getting rid of his grandfather's gun, which is the one used to shoot Walker. He even went so far as to claim she took her own life.
"She killed herself because of me and her parents or she just killed herself because of her parents," he was heard saying.
His friend asked, “But didn’t she kill herself."
Gaul retorted: "She did! No one knows that but me and [my] parents."
He was arrested at the very moment he was trying to dispose of the murder weapon and charged with his ex’s murder.
Prosecutors said he killed her because he couldn't handle their breakup.
The defense admitted Gaul fired the shots, but said he only intended to scare Walker, so he could "come to her rescue." He wanted to be "her hero."
"To be somebody's hero, to rescue somebody — you have to have contact — and the only way you can have contact is to get their attention," his lawyer Wesley Stone said in court. "When Riley Gaul fired that shot in the backyard, as crazy as it is, as bizarre as it is, he was hoping that he could come to her rescue."
The jury didn't buy it and came back with a guilty verdict.